• A child carries supplies from a grocery store in the north Queensland Aboriginal community in Kowanyama today. (AAP)Source: AAP
A social worker has been flown into Kowanyama to alleviate a mental health "crisis", but the town’s mayor says more needs to be done to address long term needs of the community.
Amanda Copp

27 Jun 2017 - 3:56 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2017 - 4:23 PM

The town of Kowanyama has been battling poor mental health and high suicide rates since a violent incident left the town reeling in October last year.

A funeral gathering for a young woman who died of cancer was interrupted when her ex-partner drove his car into the gathering, killing one and injuring 26 others.

Since the incident, there have been several suicides, prompting Kowanyama’s Mayor to declare a “mental health crisis” and call for government assistance last week.

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This week in response the Queensland Government flew a social worker into the town to assist with the growing crisis, but Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor, Michael Yam, said it “wasn’t good enough”.

“We don’t want a bandage solution, we want a long term solution that will really support our community and really help us in the long run and put a bit of a dint in the mental health crisis that we have,” he said.

“At the moment it’s getting worse and that’s why we’re asking for help … I've got no disrespect to people flying in, they’re doing a good job, but it’s not good enough.”

Cr Yam said the solutions needed “to be longer term”, such as housing assistance and mental health services to provide meaningful support for the town.

He did not want to talk about the October incident for cultural reasons but said the town was suffering ongoing mental health issues in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“People don't just heal overnight or in a couple of weeks, it takes years to heal people from trauma,” he said.

“It’s all okay to have everyone here at the time supporting us and that was good, we thank everyone for doing that, but it’s the long term - that’s when it really hurts people, in the long term.”

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service chief executive, Mr Michel Lok, said in a statement that the organisation: “Has been in close discussions with community and family representatives at Kowanyama to ensure their needs for appropriate support are being met.”

However, the social worker flown in this week will only be in Kowanyama for one week before being replaced by a mental health clinical nurse the following week only.

These two additional staff members will work alongside an existing permanent mental health clinical nurse who travels to Kowanyama each week and remains in the community for four days.

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service could not confirm whether these additional staff resources would be ongoing, but said they: “Will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional resources and support if and as required by the community.”

Health Minister Cameron Dick said on Friday he would be writing to the federal health minister requesting a review into the health services available in Kowanyama.

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